- Washington appointments for SkillsUSA WorldTeam are coming right along. We now have a confirmed appointment and location for a briefing on the House side hosted by the CTE Caucus. Both Representatives and Senators will be invited to the briefing. It also appears we’re set to meet with staff from the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee in the afternoon. Invitations have also been extended to The White House and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. We’re hopeful of team coverage in the AOL/Huffington Post in addition to continuing coverage in PARADE. The reporter working on the Huffington Post story said her editor saw the PARADE article and said: “Here’s the way to put a face on what we’re covering. Let’s do profiles of these students.”
- On September 7, SkillsUSA West Virginia Director Paul Lovett and I visited my alma mater Mercer County Technical Education Center. We spoke to 24 teachers and administrators, did some training and delivered some SkillsUSA materials. The result? Mercer County Tech is going to be a 100 percent school with 600 members.
- On September 16, I joined Rosanne White and Sandy Honour of Technology Student Association in Baltimore for a meeting with Dr. Vince Bertram, the new CEO of Project Lead the Way. It was our first opportunity to do an orientation on the two organizations for Dr. Bertram and to discuss a relaunch of the Engineering Alliance. Dr. Bertram was extremely interested, and we’ll follow up with a proposal.
- And, on September 22, I presented to the U.S. Department of Labor Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship near Baltimore, Md. They wanted me to speak about SkillsUSA because they believe there are many areas in which we can be cooperating. I was accompanied by Caleb Houston our parliamentarian from Ohio. The opportunity was created in large part by our long-time friend Bob Baird of the Independent Electrical Contractors, along with Steve Mandes of National Institute for Metalworking Skills and Greg Chambers of Oberg Industries, Inc.
While I was in Kansas City, a staffer represented SkillsUSA during the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education consortium (NASDCTEc) fall meeting in Baltimore. NASDCTEc meeting agendas are always packed with great information. The first half of this conference focused on leading strategic change and was very much in line with SkillsUSA’s own Vision 2020 when looking at the acceleration of change around us. (Here’s an interesting factoid from workshop leader Langdon Morris to illustrate the rate of change: An iPod – if it had existed in 1976 – would have cost $3.2 billion and would have taken up an entire computer room.)
The second half of the conference got down to specifics on career and technical education including a presentation and a panel discussion by experts on a recently released study entitled Learning for Jobs: The OECD Policy Review of Vocational Education and Training. Simon Field, the project manager for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development cited several of the study’s findings comparing vocational education at the high school level in 34 nations. He began with the point that “The wealth of nations will come to rely more on the skills of their people than on other sources such as natural resources.” As a consequence, nations should be investing in vocational education and, he said, “The top priority should be bridging the gap between school and business.” When compared to other developed nations, Simon said: “The U.S. actually has a good high school CTE structure. It just needs to be used for far more students” and he spoke specifically of those students who delay postsecondary education until they are 28. One of the panelists, Robert Schwartz, professor of practice, Harvard Graduate School of Education, said he has changed his mind on the value of career and technical education. He said the applied method works and that CTE, when focused on a credential – not narrowly job specific – and including employability and occupational skills, is the way to build a society, not just workers.
Staff met with Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, assistant secretary, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, as she began her “national Perkins listening tour” on CTE and we’ve invited her to national conference. We also broached the subject of a briefing at the Department of Education for the Youth Development Foundation Committee meeting to be held in Washington in April and was told: “Get me the dates.” Staff reports that Board Member Milt Ericksen was an outstanding master of ceremonies for the NASDCTEc sessions.
On May 19, I met with the National Coordinating Council of the Career and Technical Student Organizations for our bimonthly meeting at the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE). Margaret Romer, deputy director at OVAE, hosted the meeting. She said the Office wants to do much more to use CTSO students in visibility for career and technical education within the department, with policymakers and with the public. Among her specific proposals are more meetings at the Department of Education when CTSO students are in Washington, more appearances by the Department of Education before CTSO audiences and conducting a joint Webinar with the student presidents and officials in Washington under the auspices of OVAE as we’ve done in the past.
On the policy front, Romer told us that Jim Stone, director of the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education will be joining our July meeting to discuss a new research project on CTSOs supported by OVAE. She also confirmed that Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier is committed to having career and technical education included in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) known as “No Child Left Behind” in the previous administration. Romer also told me she is looking forward to reviewing the SkillsUSA Employability Skills Assessment. People in the field have been telling her to take a look.